This afternoon when the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field, it won't be the team of the 70s hosting the team of the 60s. That's nothing more then legend and laundry.
It also won't necessarily be a rematch of Super Bowl XLV. The veterans of that game over four years ago will merely be in tune-up mode.
The matchup Sunday at Heinz Field will take place between the NFC runner-ups from last year and the AFC North division champs. These teams were able to sniff ultimate victory, but not nearly close enough to taste it.
That can change this year, as both teams are on the short list of teams to represent their respective conference in the 50th edition of the Super Bowl on February 7th in Northern California.
At the conclusion of this game, the results on the scoreboard will pale in comparison to the definition of each team's depth chart, as they will really start to take significant shape. While this game will feature expanded playing time from the big names like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, fans of both teams want to see very little from their biggest attractions. Thee most interesting matchups of the day will showcase warriors attempting to entrench themselves into starting roles and others simply desperate to preserve football as their livelihood.
Key Matchup #1
LOLB Bud Dupree vs RT Brian Bulaga and ROLB Jarvis Jones vs LT Don Barclay
Nobody expects the Steelers top pick, Dupree, to start immediately. But due to the struggles and lack of production from Jones, the onus remains on both young linebackers and the Steeler staff /Steeler Nation want to see the investment in both first rounders to pay some sort of dividends.
Dupree has played the most defensive snaps out of everybody, but his 32 rushes of the quarterback have netted no sacks or pressures so far. The most noise the rookie has made so far has been his scuffles with tackles Marcus Gilbert and Kelvin Beachum in practice, resulting in his being kicked out of practice Thursday. That feistiness needs to be on display early and often against the veteran Bulaga today or the concern and restlessness of the Steeler Nation doubters will commence.
The time is now for Jarvis Jones. Patience is wearing thin and Jones needs to produce immediately and this matchup represents the perfect storm for the man that dubbed himself "Sacman Jone".
With starter David Bakhtiari out due to an injured knee, utility lineman Don Barclay is, once again, getting the nod. Barclay had struggled against New England and has looked suspect in practice this week. Coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, Barclay allowed two sacks last week at a position he had never played in an NFL game previously. This could be a perfect opportunity for #95 to exploit Barclay's troubles and point his arrow in the right direction.
Key Matchup #2
C Chris Hubbard vs NT Mike Pennel
Chris Hubbard is not a center, but Mike Tomlin announced Friday that the second-year, undrafted lineman will see time over the ball. Of course, Maurkice Pouncey is cemented at the position, but rookie B.J. Finney has not stood out positively as of yet and the Steelers seem to be exploring other avenues.
Pennel made a lot of noise at his natural nose tackle position last week against the Patriots, finishing with a very strong performance. The second-year Pennel will prove to be a tough battle for Hubbard, but if Chris could hold his own and pass this audition, then he proves versatility and ups his odds to remain in Pittsburgh.
Key Matchup #3
WRs Martavis Bryant, Tyler Murphy and Sammie Coates vs CBs Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins
Martavis Bryant looked like a perennial All-Pro on that touchdown catch against Jacksonville last Friday and the man tabbed to duplicate Bryant's successful rookie campaign, Coates, has made positive strides in his initial two exhibition contests.
The rookie from Auburn has looked impressive so far, catching six balls for 64 yards and seems poised to lock down the #4 wide receiver spot.
Murphy, who has taken a plethora of snaps at quarterback this summer, will be given the opportunity to make a splash catching the ball instead of slinging it. The Boston College rookie needs to and will have every opportunity to impress to nab that fifth slot from Darius Heyward-Bey.
This talented trio will line up against Green Bay's top two selections in the April entry draft. The Packers front loaded their defensive backfield with top-line talent after the offseason departures of Davon House and Tramon Williams left them thin at the corners.
Randall missed last week's exhibition opener due to injury and will be making his debut in green and gold against the Steelers.
Rollins had three pass breakups in his Packer debut.
Cheesehead Nation has eyes wide open on both of their new corners, who will have their hands full with the aforementioned trio and, even more, if they line up opposite stalwarts Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton.
Key Matchup #4
RT Allejandro Villanueva vs LOLBs Clay Matthews or Nick Perry
The big-bodied, Army hero added 100 pounds to his 6'9" frame and will need every single one of those lbs if he draws the straw of Clay Matthews, the Packers perennial Pro Bowl selection out of USC.
Perry is no slouch either and Big Al needs to continue to improve on his footwork to keep defenders out of his quarterback's grill.
This test will either prove Villanueva's vast potential or expose any weaknesses. However, if the man who goes 340 bills has shown signs of brilliance in two matches on the left side, he should be able to continue to prove himself, this time on the right side of the line.
Sunday's matchup will be fierce, but after battling in the desert...the gridiron is probably a walk in the park.
Key Matchup #5
PR/KR Dri Archer vs Green Bay Special Team Coverage Units
At the risk of being repetitive, Dri Archer has got to stay on his feet and flash his blazing speed to become an asset and an added weapon to his football team. The Steelers can't afford to continue to expose Antonio Brown to possible catastrophic injury shagging punts.
If Archer can show he can excel at return responsibilities, he can be a game breaker. If not, his days as a steel city hopeful will be numbered. He gets his chance against a formidable coverage team out of Green Bay.